I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism lately (e.g., living with less; owning less; omitting needless things). It is something that has caught my attention. I think I was initially drawn to the idea of owning less and focusing less on possessions because some of the most unhappy times in my life occurred when I was focused on acquiring “stuff” – comparing myself and what I had with others; wanting the same stuff that other people had but not being able to afford it or even get access to it; saving for stuff that I thought would help me to be more popular and fit in; and thinking stuff would help me create an image that I wanted (or others would find appealing). What a tremendous failure all that was – at least for me and it created endless disappointment. On the other hand, times when I have been more grateful for what I had, was not worried about the next thing I needed to buy or acquire, did not compare my possessions with others – I have been much more content.
I have located many great articles on minimalism and I’ve been seeing ways in which minimalism might allow one to access more leisure time and also improve the quality of their leisure. I’m not an expert on the minimalist life, that’s for sure. And, I’m far from a minimalist myself. I am, however, slowing acquiring an understanding of its principles and, because of the field I’m in, cannot seem to help myself from considering the links with leisure.
One of the key principles of a minimalist lifestyle in focusing on experiences and less on material possessions. Looking at this from a leisure perspective, I see ways that a minimalist lifestyle could allow one to access more leisure or to improve one’s leisure time experiences. A focus on experiences could mean enjoying doing things together as a family – putting in the garden; having supper; attending community concerts in the park. It could lead to creating memories and reliving memories created (with friends or with family). I wonder if it could also mean that everyone might be more engaged in the experience they are having – not pulling out hand-held games or phones once arriving at a performance theater to fill the time until the performance starts. I wonder if focusing on the experience would instead mean that people (both adults and children) would take in the energy that may be present (excitement, anticipation) and the atmosphere, would talk and connect with others who are sitting around them, or engaging in conversation with the person or people they came with.
Another principle of a minimalist lifestyle seems to involve making changes that improve quality of life and your relationships with others. Many leisure experiences provide opportunities for you to engage in activities that can improve your quality of life (e.g., physical activity, yoga, meditation, hiking, playing outdoors, reading) and allow you to focus on relationships (e.g., socializing with others, family dinners, volunteering). A minimalist lifestyle may allow for more focus on those activities. It may also mean that your leisure time is spent with those who mean the most to you.
A favorite blog that I’ve been following is Joshua Becker’s “Becoming Minimalist“. A recent post was about overcoming consumerism. One suggestion – shut off the television because it “glamorizes all that it needs to glamorize in order to continue in existence”. For networks to generate funds, advertising is needed. Advertisers need you to want what they have to sell. I see it… if you buy that fragrance, your life will be better; people will flock to you; big things will happen. If you have this van, your family trips will be perfect, even magical. This cleaning scrub will make your life easier. And so on. I’m a pretty critical consumer of information in general, but I’m not immune, that’s for sure. I do find myself desiring the new Mr. Clean Eraser that has a handle because with “more leverage”, I’ll be able to get the job done faster. So far, I haven’t gone out to buy one. Turning my focusing on the outcomes of implementing this tip, shutting off the television would allow opportunities to engage in more meaningful and perhaps satisfying leisure pursuits.
Another suggestion in his guide to overcome consumerism is “dream bigger dreams” for your money. He recommends aiming higher than “the clearance rack of the department store”. For example, using financial resources to help those who are without. I considered the various leisure experiences that one could access if money was devoted to “bigger dreams”. Travel is definitely a “bigger dream” – providing opportunities to experience and learn about new cultures. If music is something you love, learning to play a musical instrument might be an excellent “big dream” for you money. But smaller and/or local experiences can allow us to experience life more fully as well – financial resources direct at attending festivals and theater performances; visiting museums and art galleries; enjoying a meal out with a group of friends.
Buying less and possessing few things does create an interesting dilemma for those who consider shopping as leisure. Something to think about more on another day.
Another blogger I follow, Leo Babauta, discusses goals in one of his posts. He poses the question, do we really need 101 goals. It is unclear how he is defining goals – whether he’s speaking about life goals or everyday goals. Regardless, I liked this question because it caused me to pause and consider whether having too many goals makes for more “to do” lists or a longer “to do” list. We have the work “to do” list and the home “to do” list and maybe even a kids “to do” list. Can too many goals form another list? He suggests that if we have fewer goals or even just one, we can put more of ourselves into that one goal. Again, when I consider this from a leisure perspective, I wonder how having many leisure-related goals might impact the quality of an experience. This brought to memory something I saw on Pinterest.
Each of these activities on their own could be experienced as leisure – lots of fun, freely chosen, intrinsically motivated. However, when we see these lists, do we feel pressure to take in all these experiences? Do we switch our focus to consuming experiences in the way that we consume material goods? If we see these as “goals” – might we fall (no pun intended) into a trap of trying to knock them off the list – be successful in “doing fall” – rather than thinking about which we’d most like to do and setting one or too “fall activities” as goals? I don’t know the answers, but these questions are worth considering. Fewer goals. Less pressure. Greater ability to fully give yourself to the goal. All this could lead to a more satisfying experience in whichever activities you chose to do.
It seems, from my initial examination, that a minimalist lifestyle has the potential to open doors to more leisure, different types of leisure, and perhaps even improved leisure experience for those embracing it.